Monday, June 23, 2008

Getting In the Grains

I don’t think I need to tell you why it is important to eat whole grains, do I? We’ve been hearing about the benefits for a long time. Extra fiber and a natural source to boot, higher nutrient value, potential to lower harmful blood cholesterol – there’s quite a list. But for people with food allergies, sensitivities and special dietary needs, there is another important reason.

If your dietary choices are already limited, you need to make the most of food that you do eat. It’s that simple. Now, if there are grains that are problematic for you, that’s different and you should go ahead and avoid them. But the grains that are okay in your diet should be eaten in their whole forms whenever possible and not just for their healthful benefits. Whole grains add flavor and texture to otherwise basic foods. More flavor and texture makes a somewhat limited list of food choices much more enjoyable. Last time, I passed along a recipe for chicken coated with wheat germ. While wheat germ is not whole grain, it is an important bit of the grain so that is one way of adding the texture and flavor of grains to your meals. A few other very simple changes can be made in your next trip to the grocery store.

Can you eat oats? Can you find an extra fifteen minutes in your morning routine to cook blade cut oatmeal instead of heavily processed, instant oatmeal? How about wheat? This one is even easier to add in because of the number of whole grain foods available. Try whole wheat tortillas and whole wheat frozen waffles. There are loads of options for whole grain and multi-grain bread, too. Simple change, right? But these foods have an entirely different layer of flavor as well as the added nutrition. You didn’t even have to do any extra cooking aside from a few more minutes for your oatmeal. But wait! There’s more!

Choose brown rice over white rice. Again, there isn’t really significant extra preparation but you’ll get more flavor and texture bang for your food buck. Once in awhile, instead of rice, try substituting wheatberries as a dinnertime side dish. Season them with your favorite herbs and a bit of butter or margarine. Cook wheatberries and serve with milk or a dairy substitute in place of oatmeal if, like me, oats are not on your list. Add barley to a vegetable soup instead of noodles or rice. You can bake with whole grain flour, too. I don’t recommend whole grain for a light and fluffy cake but it will make a very satisfying cookie. You’ll have to experiment a bit to find which recipes are best for using whole grain flours. We’ll talk about that more in the future.

Getting the idea? Over time, you’ll hear so much from me about getting the most out of your food that you might begin to think me a bit touched in the head. But let’s be honest. We are working with a limited diet (and no, I still don’t like to see it in a negative light but that doesn’t keep it from being true). We can’t afford to lose flavor, texture and nutrition by using food that has been processed beyond what is really necessary. Personally, I believe the same goes for how we cook the food. In the end, I think food is best eaten as near to its natural state as is safe and practical to eat. No, you will never see a recipe for any sort of steak tartare in this blog. I’m afraid I don’t care from my meat to be even remotely rare. But you get my point. Steamed vegetables, not boiled and raw is even better. Whole grains whenever possible. Seasonal and locally grown for best freshness.

We’ll touch on this more as we go. For now, make your grocery list and pad it with some new whole grain options you haven’t already tried and, until next time, let’s go eat that!


Christine said...

Whole Grains are also an important food to help prevent Cancer, too! They are very optimal for you health. Great article!

Sandra Gordon said...

Hi Christine!

Thanks! You are quite right about the cancer-fighting benefits. When there are so many good reasons to eat whole grains, it only makes sense to actively add them to your diet.